I expect them to find new ways to utilize Latsko. They love tough, hard nosed runners that can also catch the football. Latsko could line up in the slot and be that blocking receiver that every linebacker and safety despises. He could also be that guy that runs hard for that one or two yards the team just has to have in any given situation.
Next is a guy that I pointed out a couple of weeks ago as a possibility of moving to tackle in order to get the best five offensive linemen on the field. It turns out my projection was right and Sarasota's Drew Miller will start out spring at one of the tackle spots.
A true junior, Miller got SEC offensive lineman of the week for one game in which he only played 36 plays. He has the ability and the physical strength to get the job done. Although he's still relatively inexperienced as a tackle, he's been on the field in critical games so it's unlikely he will be overwhelmed from a mental standpoint. I've watched his development carefully and I expect he will have a breakout season this year whether it's at guard or tackle --- but for now, I'm saying he's a tackle.
Brandon Daniel of Pompano Beach is a defensive tackle the coaches are quietly optimistic about. He has remained relatively quiet over the two years he has been here, mostly due to injuries that have kept him from practicing. He is a red-shirt sophomore and has been in practice battles for two full springs now. Apparently, he's in good health for the first time since he's been here.
Daniel has the size (300-pounder) and the ability to play at a high level. He's shown enough glimpses of ability that the Florida staff thinks he could be a good one if he can just stay injury-free. He is my pick on the defensive line to have a breakout spring that will carry over into the fall.
Jon Demps was the first of the true freshmen linebackers to play last year. He was playing well and was the most physically advanced of the group when he suffered a season-ending knee injury. However, I would bet that if you asked the Florida staff which freshman linebacker made the most progress the answer would probably be Jacksonville's Ryan Stamper.
Stamper put on weight quickly after his arrival last summer and he's big enough and fast enough to spell Earl Everett now. Stamper has good instincts and a natural feel in the way he moves to the ball carrier. He's got an abundance of speed, too, another reason why I think he's ready to move on up the charts this spring.
I talked about his brother (Jermaine) in the last column but I believe Tremaine McCollum is going to find a way to get on the field this fall. He doesn't have a lot of size but he is still taller than the departed Vernell Brown. He isn't quite as quick Vernell but he's been around the system and knows what is expected. In practices over the past three years, he's shown that he knows how to make plays. He hustles and makes receivers earn everything. I believe he is what the coaches look for in a cornerback minus about two inches in height.
Last spring he made more plays at the position than any of the others. I think if he had more time on the field he may have even been more of a factor. He is a guy that I think really benefited from the coaching change.
OK, so I am on a positive story and I just couldn't mention five guys. I think running back DeShawn Wynn is setting himself up to have a great year. If he can keep his shoulder healthy, I think he can have a season to remember. All indications are he has really worked himself into great shape in the weight room.
Wynn was ballyhooed as a five-star back from Ohio. He has never really been able to get completely untracked d ue to health issues, but even hurt he has shown flashes of brilliance. He got caught tip toeing last year a few times but more often than not he was playing with a very sore shoulder. I think he takes that next step in his "contract" year and becomes the runner the Gators want him to be.
One guy almost everyone is rooting for is quarterback turned tight end Cornelius Ingram. If there was a physical mold made for the H-Back position it would be that of Ingram's. He has the physical tools and the instincts to be a big time player at the position.
Ingram in the slot gives the coaches a freaky weapon they haven't had to work with at Florida. With Tate Casey, they have a 6-6, 245-pound guy that can run fairly well and get up high and catch the ball. Ingram brings some athleticism and speed to the position that Casey doesn't have. In the open field with just one man to beat, Ingram has the speed to blow by a defender a nd the moves to make him miss. He also brings the dimension of a running back if the Gators pitch to him when he goes in motion.
With talk of spring ball heating up, so will the observations of the Gator Country staff. Stay tuned for more water cooler talk until practices begin March 29th.